There is a name I can’t speak.
It burns and contorts my tongue when I think of it. This guy. Formerly my friend. Nowadays, if I name him at all, it’s as ‘my abuser.’
I mute his name on all my social media, I’ve delisted his sites from my RSS reader, I close pages where his work appears. Even seeing his initials, sometimes, produces the sensation of cold wrought iron fingers closing around my throat.
I don’t know how to describe these reactions except as a form of PTSD. When I’m reminded he exists, I start to shut down mentally, emotionally, physically. I can’t do my work or, on the weekends, like I’m trying to do now, read articles for Critical Distance. Sometimes I find more than half an hour has passed with me staring into space, breathing minimally, recollections and self-judgments rattling around in my skull.
The worst of it is that, cornered into confessing my pain to someone, I can’t not say his name, even given the inevitable fallout. I have to identify him to close confidants, explain what he did to my head, why I refuse to read about him or link to articles with him. Again and again, one on one in these furtive dark alleys of Tweetdeck DMs or emails, because I’m too fucking afraid of the reprisal if I just said his name, out for everyone to see.
Because he’s a man, and I am not.
Because even if I had friends to support me it would create “drama.”
Because reliving what he did to me for a few hours or days out of a week is better than reliving it every single day of my life until I give up and quit the field, as I’ve seen happen to so many other people.
Because flinching and shutting down for a while is not as terrifying as the thought of publicly telling off a big site for linking to the work of a toxic misogynist and his us-versus-them diatribes.
Because I keep hoping that to deny the problem my attention is the same as denying oxygen to a fire.
Because I want to believe that I’m bigger than him, that what little good I’ve done in my life-to-date is more than he will make out of his campaigns of toxicity.
Because it’s fucking videogames.
Because I just want it to go away.
I’ve had friendships turn sour on the internet before. This is the first one who, upon being told that I didn’t see things exactly his way, told me that I was his enemy and worse, The Enemy, the leader of an opposing faction in some war he believes he’s fighting.
‘That’s how a child thinks,’ I thought to myself when things first fell apart. But children even at their cruelest don’t have the capacity for that deft sort of manipulation to twist a knife just so in a person’s head, like he did with me. I’m honestly scared of him — and I’m mortified whenever I see he’s been given a platform.
But if I spoke up I would be causing drama, I would be in the wrong. Even in the very best case it would involve having to see my abuser’s name again, and again, more than I ever wanted.
Cripes, I’ve avoided giving any identifying details about him here at all and I’m still terrified that he’ll find and comment on this, or send me an email, or launch a renewed campaign against me. But for as scared as I am I’m exhausted from dancing around the bare and simple fact that I have a scar. The fact that it’s not in a place where anyone can see doesn’t mean it hurts any less.
(They say the best revenge is living well and that’s all that I’ve tried to do. It’s what I’ll keep doing after I push ‘publish’ on this. All this is, all it’s been for, is to try to cleave away some of this dead tissue and move on.)